Three U.S. Presidents in the Same Year

With United States presidents enjoying four-year terms, which are often extended one more four-year period, it will likely surprise most to learn that, on two occasions, three different presidents served in a single calendar year.

Martin Van Buren, a Democrat, became the country’s eighth president when he was elected in late 1836 and inaugurated on March 4, 1837. However, his attempt at re-election failed as William H. Harrison, a member of the Whig Party, defeated him in resounding fashion in the next election with the electoral college selecting him by a 234-60 margin.

However, Harrison’s stay in the White House ended up being the shortest one in history as he was inaugurated on March 4, 1841, caught a cold on March 26 and died on April 4.

John Tyler, the vice president, took over later that day and became not only the third president of 1841 but also the third president in a 31-day span.

The rare occurrence of three presidents in a year repeated itself 40 years later.

Rutherford B. Hayes, a Republican, was elected in a tightly contested election in November 1876, winning the electoral vote, 185-184, over Democrat Samuel J. Tilden in the smallest electoral-vote victory in history. He took office on March 3, 1877. However, in his inaugural address, Hayes pledged to not run for a second term and adhered to that pledge.

He was replaced by another Republican, James A. Garfield, who was sworn into office on March 4, 1881.

However, Garfield was shot by Charles J. Guiteau on July 2 of that year. Although he did not die immediately, he did a couple of months later as a result of that attack and doctors using unwashed hands when attempting to treat him and otherwise being unclean.

Chester A. Arthur took over the presidency on Sept. 19, 1881, to complete the second and, to date, last instance of the U.S. being led by three different presidents in the same year.